The “Bermuda Triangle” is a geographical area between Miami, Florida, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the tiny island nation of Bermuda. Nearly everyone who goes to the Bahamas can tell you that it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll die a horrible death.
From 1946 to 1991, there have been over 100 disappearances. These are some of the military disappearances that have been lost in the Bermuda Triangle.
1. U.S.S. Cyclops – March 4th, 1918
One of the U.S. Navy’s largest fuel ships at the time made an unscheduled stop in Barbados on its voyage to Baltimore. The ship was carrying 100 tons of manganese ore above what it could typically handle. All reports before leaving port said that it was not a concern.
The new path took the Cyclops straight through the Bermuda Triangle. No distress signal was sent. Nobody aboard answered radio calls.
This is one of the most deadly incidents in U.S. Navy history outside of combat, as all 306 sailors aboard were declared deceased by then-Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt.
2. and 3. USS Proteus and USS Nereus – November 23rd and December 10th 1941
Two of the three Sister ships to the U.S.S. Cyclops, The Proteus and Nereus, both carried a cargo of bauxite and both left St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands along the same exact path. Bauxite was used to create the aluminum for Allied aircraft.
Original theories focused on a surprise attack by German U-Boats, but the Germans never took credit for the sinking, nor were they in the area.
According to research by Rear Adm. George van Deurs, the acidic coal cargo would seriously erode the longitudinal support beams, thereby making them more likely to break under stress. The fourth sister ship to all three of the Cyclops, Proteus, and Nereus was the USS Jupiter. It was recommissioned as the USS Langley and became the Navy’s first aircraft carrier.
3. Flight 19 – December 5th, 1945
The most well known and documented disappearance was that of Flight 19. Five TBM Avenger Torpedo Bombers left Ft. Lauderdale on a routine training exercise. A distress call received from one of the pilots said: “We can’t find west. Everything is wrong. We can’t be sure of any direction. Everything looks strange, even the ocean.”
Later, pilot Charles Taylor sent another transmission: “We can’t make out anything. We think we may be 225 miles northwest of base. It looks like we are entering white water. We’re completely lost.”
After a PBM Mariner Flying Boat was lost on this rescue mission, the U.S. Navy’s official statement was “We are not even able to make a good guess as to what happened.”
4. MV Southern Districts – 5 December 1954
The former U.S. Navy Landing Ship was acquired by the Philadelphia and Norfolk Steamship Co. and converted into a cargo carrier. During its service, the LST took part in the invasion of Normandy.
Its final voyage was from Port Sulphur, Louisiana, to Bucksport, Maine, carrying a cargo of sulfur. It lost contact as it passed through the Bermuda Triangle. No one ever heard from the Southern Districts again until four years later, when a single life preserver washed on the Florida shores.
5. Flying Box Car out of Homestead AFB, FL – June 5th, 1965
The Fairchild C-119G and her original five crew left Homestead AFB at 7:49 PM with four more mechanics to aid another C-199G stranded on Grand Turk Island. The last radio transmission was received just off Crooked Island, 177 miles from it’s destination.
A month later on July 18, debris washed up on the beach of Gold Rock Cay just off the shore of Acklins Island (near where the crew gave its last transmission).
The most plausible theory of the mysterious disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle points to confirmation bias. If someone goes missing in the Bermuda Triangle, it’s immediately drawn into the same category as everything else lost in the area. The Coast Guard has stated that “there is no evidence that disappearances happen more frequently in the Bermuda Triangle than in any other part of the ocean.”
Of course, it’s more fun to speculate that one of the most traveled waterways near America may be haunted, may have alien abductions, or hold the Bimini’s secret Atlantean Empire.
The sea is a terrifying place. When sailors and airmen go missing, it’s a heartbreaking tragedy. Pointing to an easily debunkable theory cheapens the lose of good men and women.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army has three aircraft carriers in some degree of completion, but on Sept. 25, 2019, China launched a new kind of flattop — the first Type 075 amphibious assault ship.
The still unnamed ship was put in the water at the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai, the China Daily reported. A military expert told The Global Times that the launch “marked the beginning of a new era in the development of Chinese naval surface ships.”
The ship is not yet ready, as the ship still needs to be fitted with radar, navigation, electronic warfare, and other critical systems and go through sea trials before it can become operational, but Wednesday’s launch is an important step toward the fielding of China’s first amphibious assault ship able to transport dozens of aircraft, as well as ground troops and military vehicles — forces needed to mount a seabone raid or invasion.
The launch follows the recent appearance of photos online showing a nearly-completed ship, leading observers to conclude that a launch was imminent.
The Type 075, the development of which began in 2011, is expected to be much more capable than the Type 071 amphibious transport docks that currently serve as the critical components of the Chinese amphibious assault force.
“Compared with China’s Type 071, the new Type 075 can accommodate more transport and attack helicopters and, in coordination with surface-effect ships [fast boats to deploy troops], could demonstrate greater attack capabilities [than the Type 071], especially for island assault missions,” Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military affairs expert, told the South China Morning Post prior to the launch.
Unlike the Type 071, currently the largest operational amphibious warfare vessels in the PLAN, the Type 075 is longer and features a full flight deck.
With a displacement of roughly 40,000 tons, the ship is noticeably larger than Japan’s Izumo-class helicopter destroyer, which Japan is in the process of converting to carry F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, but smaller than the US military’s Wasp-class and America-class amphibious assault ships, vessels the Navy and Marines have been looking at using as light aircraft carriers.
Details about the capabilities of the Type 075 ships and the Chinese navy’s plans for them are limited, so it is unclear if China would eventually equip its 250-meter amphibious assault ships with aircraft with vertical or short takeoff and landing abilities.
China does not currently have a suitable jump jet like the F-35B or AV-8B Harrier II for this purpose, but older reports indicate the country is looking into developing one.
The launch comes just days ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, when China is expected to show off its military might. At least two more amphibious assault ships are said to be in the works.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When the USS Wahoo sailed into Pear Harbor on Feb. 7, 1943, she had an odd ornament on her periscope: a common broom. But that broom was one of the most impressive symbols a crew could aspire to earn because it symbolized that the boat had destroyed an entire enemy convoy, sweeping it from the seas.
Flush with torpedoes and no other threats in sight, the Wahoo decided to engage. It fired a spread of three torpedoes but had underestimated the destroyer’s speed. The Wahoo fired another torpedo with the speed taken into account, but the destroyer turned out of the weapon’s path.
And then it bore down on the Wahoo, seeking to destroy the American sub. The crew played a high-stakes game of chicken by holding the sub in position. When the destroyer reached 1,200 yards, the crew fired the fifth torpedo, which the destroyer again avoided.
At 800 yards they fired their sixth and last forward torpedo, barely enough range for the torpedo to arm. The risk of failure was so great that Lt. Cmdr. Dudley Morton ordered a crash dive immediately after firing, putting as much water in the way of enemy depth charges as possible.
But the last torpedo swam true and hit the Japanese ship in the middle, breaking its keel and causing its boilers to burst.
The next day, Jan. 25, was relatively uneventful, but Jan. 26 would be the Wahoo’s date with destiny. Just over an hour after sunrise, the third officer spotted smoke over the horizon and Morton ordered an intercept course.
They found a four-ship convoy consisting of a tanker, a troop transport, and two freighters. All four were valuable targets, but sinking the troop transport could save thousands of lives and sinking tankers would slow the Japanese war machine by starving ships of fuel.
There was no escort, but the Wahoo still had to watch for enemy deck guns and ramming maneuvers. The sub fired a four-torpedo spread at the two freighters, scoring three hits. The first target sank and the second was wounded. Wahoo then turned its attention to the tanker and the troop transport.
The troop transport attempted a ram, sailing straight at the Wahoo. Morton ordered a risky gambit, firing a torpedo at the transport after it drew close rather than taking evasive actions.
After the torpedo was launched, the transport took its own evasive action and abandoned its ramming maneuver. In doing so, the transport presented the sub with its broad sides, a prime target.
The Wahoo fired two more torpedoes and dove to avoid another attack. It was still diving when both torpedoes struck home. Eight minutes later, the Wahoo surfaced and saw that the transport was dead in the water. It fired a torpedo that failed to detonate and then a carefully aimed final shot that triggered a massive explosion and doomed the Japanese vessel.
A few hours later, the Wahoo was able to find and re-engage the two survivors of her earlier action. The tanker and the wounded freighter had steamed north but couldn’t move fast enough to escape the American sub.
The Wahoo waited for nightfall and then fired two torpedoes at the undamaged tanker. One hit, but the ship was still able to sail quickly. With only four torpedoes left and the Japanese ships taking evasive action, Wahoo waited and studied their movements.
When certain they could predict the Japanese ships, the crew attacked again. The first pair of torpedoes were fired at the tanker just after it turned. One of them slammed into its middle, breaking the keel and quickly sending it to the depths.
The crippled freighter was firing what weapons it had at the sub and almost hit it with a shell, forcing it to dive. Then, a searchlight appeared from over the horizon, possibly signaling a Japanese warship that could save the freighter.
The Wahoo carefully lined up its final shot at 2,900 and fired both torpedoes at once with no spread, a sort of final Hail-Mary to try and sink the freighter before it could find safety with the warship.
The final pair of torpedoes both hit, their warheads tearing open the freighter and quickly sinking it before the Japanese ship, which turned out to be a destroyer, cleared the horizon.
The American crew escaped and continued their patrol, attempting to attack another convoy with just their deck guns on Jan. 27 and mapping a Japanese explosives facility on Jan. 28 before returning to Pearl Harbor with the triumphant broom flying high on Feb. 7.
During more than 34 years of fleet service, the F-14 Tomcat transformed from analog fighter to digital precision attack platform. Originally designed to keep Russian bombers away from the battle group by employing Phoenix missiles at very long range, by the time the Tomcat was retired in 2006 it was capable of missions as far ranging as forward air controller (airborne), reconnaissance, close air support, and precision deep-strike, which made it CENTCOM’s platform of choice over Afghanistan and Iraq.
Here’s a gallery of 17 photos that celebrate the legendary F-14, the last of the Grumman cats:
The Tomcat came in three different models: A, B, and D. Here an F-14D — with two General Electric F-110 engines and the fully digital APG-71 radar system — makes a supersonic pass.
The F-14A had the less powerful (and less reliable) Pratt and Whitney TF-30 engine that required the pilot select afterburner when launching from the carrier. The F-14A and B also had the AWG-9 weapons system, which used physical tape to transfer data.
Because the GE F-110 had the same thrust at military power as the TF-30 had in Zone 2 afterburner F-14B and D pilots could launch from the carrier without selecting afterburner, which didn’t look as cool but was much safer.
Unlike the F-4, which extended its nose strut for catapult launches, the F-14 “knelt,” or compressed, the nose strut, giving it the look of a dragster about to zorch down the quarter mile.
Airborne off Cat 3! Here Tom Twomey, a radar intercept officer with the VF-111 “Sundowners,” takes a selfie (before that was a thing) as his pilot starts a left-hand clearing turn away from the USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63).
The engineers who designed the Tomcat swore that asymmetric wing sweep was impossible, but test pilots proved them wrong during test. In spite of this over the history of the airplane the wing sweep system proved to be very reliable.
Because 25 percent of the Tomcat’s lift came from the large area between the wings — popularly referred to as the “tennis court” — the Tomcat didn’t have a very impressive roll rate relative to airplanes like the A-4 or F-16. But its large horizontal stabilizers gave Tomcat pilots significant pitch authority, which made the jet a lethal dogfighter in the right hands.
People tend to forget that the United States sold Iran F-14s back when the Shah was in charge in the late ’70s and that they’re still flying them today (although none of them are believed to be fully mission capable). The Iranian Air Force used the Phoenix missile to shoot down Iraqi opponents during the Iran-Iraq War, something U.S. Navy crews never did.
Iranian ace Jalil Zandi shot down 11 Iraqi aircraft during the Iran–Iraq War, which makes him the most successful F-14 pilot by far.
The first Gulf of Sidra incident occurred in 1981 when a section of Tomcats from VF-41 flying off of the USS Nimitz shot down two Libyan Su-22s. Wing RIO Lt. Jim Anderson (far left) was later killed in a skiing accident. Lead pilot Cdr. Hank Kleeman (second from left, squadron CO at the time) was later killed when he flipped an F/A-18 while taxiing. Wing pilot Lt. Larry Muczynski (second from left) got out of the Navy to become an airline pilot. Lead RIO Lt. Dave Venlet (far right) became a pilot and ultimately rose to the rank of Vice Admiral and headed the Naval Air Systems Command.
The second Gulf of Sidra incident took place in 1989 when two Tomcats from the VF-32 “Swordsmen” shot down two Libyan MiG-23s. (Read the full amazing story here.)
The Tomcat’s size — nearly 70 feet from wingtip to wingtip — demanded pilots be right on azimuth when they crossed the aircraft carrier’s ramp. Here a pilot makes a last-second lineup correction that almost leads to disaster.
The F-14 had a lot of moving parts in the landing pattern — flaps, slats, speed brake, spoilers, rudders, and horizontal stabilizers — which earned the airplane the nickname “Turkey” because of how it looked to be flapping when the pilot was actively moving the controls. (Also note the LANTIRN pod — the gear that made the Tomcat a smart bomber — mounted on the right weapons station.)
“The John Wayne loadout,” six Phoenix missiles. Although this is why the Tomcat was initially fielded, during the years the fighter flew the real-world threat never demanded this complement of missiles.
A Tomcat tanking from an Air Force KC-135, an always-sporty evolution because of the adapter that was placed at the end of the boom to accommodate Navy aircraft that didn’t give much slack and had a tendency to rip off probes if pilots weren’t careful.
Arguably the coolest paint job in the history of military aviation. VX-4’s “Vandy One” was a big hit on cross-countries and at airshows in the days before the Playboy bunny came to represent pure evil (and JAGs figured out the U.S. Navy was in gross violation of copyright laws). (But you could be somebody climbing out of this one, tell you what . . .)
Those who flew you miss you, Big Fighter. Tomcats forever, baby!
Remember The First Gulf War? Persian Gulf War? Desert Storm and/or Desert Shield? They’re all the same war. Whatever we call it now, it was the war which expelled Iraqi troops from Kuwait, checked a decade of Saddam Hussein’s aggression toward his neighbors, and broke the looming spectre of Vietnam that hung over the U.S. military.
U.S. troops had seen smaller actions in before that time, but nothing like the scale and scope of a real “mother of all battles,” pitting Saddam’s Iraq vs. the United States and its UN-mandated coalition partners.
“Yours is a society which cannot accept 10,000 dead in one battle.” — Saddam Hussein, July 25, 1990.
“This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait.” — President George H.W. Bush, Aug. 6, 1990.
The invasion of Kuwait is now just over 25 years old. It probably seemed like a quick victory, one unlikely to have lasting effects in the annals of history, but little did we know it was just setting the stage for the region’s next 30 years. There was no way to predict this war would even happen. In 1990, President Bush (41) was unable to shake off the “wimp” moniker bestowed on him by Newsweek in 1987.
In the post-9/11 world, the events leading up to and after the conflict came to lasting importance. Today, U.S. troops have come and gone, come and gone, come and gone from Iraq. The country has become America’s enduring sidepiece. Then Operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch gave way to Operation Iraqi Freedom and with it Bayonet Lightning, Red Dawn and countless others who themselves gave way to Operation Inherent Resolve. There are troops in Iraq today who weren’t yet born when Saddam first captured the Kuwaiti oil fields, and Saddam himself didn’t live to see this day.
Here are 21 facts about your daddy’s Iraq War.
1. The Iran-Iraq War led to Iraq invading Kuwait.
Iraq owed $80 million in foreign debt from its 1980-1988 war with Iran. Saddam Hussein demanded Saudi Arabia and Kuwait forgive $30 billion in Iraqi debt, which he saw a result of protecting Kuwait from Shia Iranian forces for eight years. He then accused Kuwait of stealing Iraqi oil through slant drilling.
Since Iraq’s economy depended on oil sales, Saddam hoped to repay its debts by raising the price of oil through OPEC oil production cuts, but instead, Kuwait increased production and repeatedly produced more than its quota, lowering prices in an attempt to leverage a better resolution of its border dispute with Iraq.
2. In 1991, Iraq had the fifth largest army in the world.
It’s true, Iraq’s armed forces boasted more than a million men in uniform in 1991, but only a third of those were skilled professional fighting forces. Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait with 120,000 of these and 2,000 tanks. After the Gulf War started, he concluded Iraq’s peace with Iran and raised his occupying force levels to 300,000. Iraq conscripted three fourths of men between ages 15 and 49. Even so, Iraq’s Air Force was large but weak and its Navy was “virtually nonexistent.”
3. Saddam thought the United States gave him the okay to invade Kuwait.
President Bush’s Ambassador to Iraq was April Glaspie, who, in a meeting with the Iraqi dictator, stressed to him that the U.S. did not want a trade war with Iraq. Saddam reiterated his commitment to peace in the region, so long as the Kuwaitis agree to meet OPEC production standards. Ambassador Glaspie told Saddam:
“But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait. I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late 1960s. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction.”
When nothing changed in Kuwait and Egyptian diplomacy failed, Saddam began the invasion. Saddam, frequently emphasizing a desire for U.S. friendship, was surprised to find his actions condemned by President Bush. When asked later why she said that to Saddam, Glaspie said: “We had no idea he would go that far.”
4. Saddam thought Arab states would be okay with Iraq annexing Kuwait.
The invasion happened during the first Palestinian Intifada, which enjoyed wide Arab support. As Palestinians tried to shake off Israeli occupation, Saddam tried to appeal to pan-Arab nationalism by being the strongman who would stand up to the West and Israel. He reasoned that the British illegally cut Kuwait out of greater Iraq in the 19th century and he was trying to right a Western wrong. The Arab League was not okay with this.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak tried to negotiate a treaty to avert a war, but Saddam walked out after two hours. His forces invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990. Two-thirds of the Arab League states joined the UN in a resolution condemning the invasion as King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and Kuwaiti leaders asked NATO for help. Iraq annexed Kuwait as its 19th province with Ali Hassan al-Majid (aka “Chemical Ali) as governor.
5. Iraq rolled over Kuwait in two days.
Unlike the Iran-Iraq War (which went on for eight years), Iraq’s Elite Republican Guard (with names which sound like they were made up by an American teenager, like the 1st Hammurabi Armored Division or the 4th Nebuchadnezzar Motorized Infantry Division) swiftly defeated Kuwaiti forces, reaching Kuwait City in an hour.
They either overran Kuwaitis on the ground or forced them (like 80% of the Kuwaiti Air Force) into neighboring Saudi Arabia or the island of Bahrain. Kuwait had not mobilized for war despite Saddam’s constant threats.
Whenever possible, Kuwaitis resisted fiercely, even establishing an underground resistance movement, though it was largely untrained and incapable. In trying to capture Kuwait’s Emir, Iraqis assaulted Dasman Palace even though the Emir had already left. The Emir’s brother was killed after leading a 12-hour defense of the palace, outnumbered by an entire Iraqi division. His body was placed in front of a tank and run over.
6. Iraq occupied Kuwait between August 1990 and January 1991 — and it was brutal.
In that time, the Iraqi forces committed at least sixteen crimes against the Laws of Armed Conflict as outlined in the Geneva and Hague Conventions. Those crimes include running of at least two dozen torture sites in Kuwait City alone, torturing civilians to the point of death and disfigurement. Kuwaiti women were taken hostage and raped repeatedly. Iraqi occupation forces killed at least 1,082 Kuwaiti civilian noncombatants, including women, children, and the mentally handicapped. Then they rigged the oil wells to explode if they were attacked.
Coalition Forces didn’t begin to expel Iraqis from Kuwait until January 1991, after the UN-mandated January 15th withdrawal deadline. Once Coalition forces and Iraqi forces met in the field, the Iraqis committed more war crimes. Among them, they pretended to surrender to U.S. Marines, then opened fire on them. Iraqis would disguise themselves as civilians and then ambush Coalition forces. Iraqi troops also tortured prisoners of war.
7. The U.S. could not have prevented Iraq from invading Saudi Arabia.
Shortly after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the UN passed resolutions condemning it, calling for the removal of Iraqi troops, and the nullification of Iraq’s annexation. Desert Shield began as the U.S. and the Coalition took six months building up air and naval forces in the region, enforcing the UN blockade of Iraq and U.S.-imposed sanctions. Until the buildup, however, Iraqi forces would have easily overwhelmed the Saudi defenses. Why Saddam didn’t immediately press his advantage is unknown.
Iraqi forces invaded Saudi Arabia at the January 1991 Battle of Khafji, capturing the city on the night of 29 January. By this time, however, it was far too late. Coalition forces had more than enough troops and hardware to repel the Iraqis. The attacks were fought off by U.S. Marines, Army Rangers, and Coalition aircraft and the city was soon recaptured by Saudi and Qatari forces, backed by U.S. airpower.
8. The Coalition built fake bases and units to dupe Iraqis into defending the wrong area.
The coalition used deception cells to create the impression that they were going to attack near the Kuwaiti “boot heel,” as opposed to the strategy actually implemented. The Army set up FOB Weasel near the opposite end of the Kuwaiti border, which was a network of fake camps manned only by several dozen soldiers. With computer-controlled radios, messages were passed between fictitious headquarters sections. Smoke generators and loudspeakers playing prerecorded tank and truck noises were used, along with inflatable Humvees and helicopters.
9. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf commanded a force larger and more complex than the D-Day invasion in WWII and didn’t want a ground war.
“Stormin’ Norman,” as he came to be known, was a highly-decorated and respected Vietnam War veteran. He commanded a Coalition of 670,000 personnel from 28 countries, along with combined Naval and Air Forces, with 425,000 troops from the United States. According to his memoirs, he implemented his operational plan to defend Saudi Arabia and expel Iraq from Kuwait using Gen. Colin Powell’s (then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) doctrine of overwhelming force and incorporated Montgomery’s desert armor tactics from the second battle of El-Alamein in World War II, all in an effort to minimize casualties on both sides.
“I hate war. Absolutely, I hate war,” he once said. “When the war started, we were hoping that they’d come to their senses and stop right then,” he said. “After 38 days, we got to a point where we could launch the ground war and, by that time, they hadn’t withdrawn.” Once begun, the ground war lasted only 100 hours before Iraq capitulated.
10. Desert Storm was a relatively cheap war.
Though the U.S. was the primary supplier, 39 countries contributed men and/or materiel to the Coalition in some significant way. Yeah, that’s Afghanistan in blue down there.
The U.S. Department of Defense has estimated the cost of the Gulf War at $61 billion. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states covered $36 billion while Germany and Japan covered $16 billion. Still, as a percent of Gross Domestic Product (0.3%), Desert Storm was the cheapest war fought in U.S. history. The greater cost of the war to the region was likely more than $676 billion.
11. Saddam Hussein declared a jihad against the U.S.-led coalition.
Saddam began to convey a more Islamic, religious appearance in Iraqi media, showing himself praying at mosques and supporting the Palestinian cause, hoping to reframe the war as a struggle against Western imperialism and Israeli scheming.
The plan didn’t work. Sheik Abdul-Aziz Bin Baz, the Saudis’ leading interpreter of Islamic law, called Saddam Hussein the “enemy of God.”
12. Desert Storm helped secure a Bill Clinton presidency.
The Iraqi invasion already caused the price of oil to more than double, which led to a worldwide recession in the 1990s and the defeat of George H.W. Bush at the hands of Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential election, despite being a popular, successful wartime President. Bill Clinton’s election team famously coined the term “It’s the economy, stupid” as their campaign mantra.
13. Iraq used oil as a weapon.
Smoke plumes from burning oil fields were intended to disrupt coalition aircraft and the heat from fires was expected to slow the advance of coalition troops. Iraqi combat engineers dug trenches filled with oil and ignited them to slow Coalition advances and spilled oil into the Persian Gulf in an effort to keep U.S. Marines from making an amphibious landing. Estimates of Iraqi oil spilled into the Gulf range from 4 to 11 million barrels, several time the size of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, and was never cleaned up on Saudi Arabian shores. The 610 oil fires set by Iraq destroyed 85% of Kuwaiti oil wells. The total amount of oil burned is an estimated 1 billion barrels, worth $2.8 billion.
The oil fires took down a Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) C-130, killing 92 Senegalese soldiers and the 6 Saudi crew members. They allowed Iraqi Republican Guard units to get the jump on Americans at the Battle of Phase Line Bullet, one of the few Iraqi victories of the war.
14. Israel had the third largest casualty count, despite not being in the war.
Iraq fired Scud missiles at Israel in an attempt to draw the country into the conflict, a move that would force many Arab states in the Coalition to choose between withdrawing or fighting alongside Israel, neither of which were appealing to the Arabs. In response, the U.S. and Netherlands deployed Patriot Missile Battalions to Israel and Turkey to keep Israel from retaliating (The Gulf War marked the first mid-air missile-to-missile interception).
Israelis in their home in Tel Aviv. Many feared Iraqi chemical attacks would come with the Scuds.
Seventy-four Israelis died as Iraq fired Scud missiles toward Tel Aviv. Many hit the Tel Aviv neighborhood of Ramat Gan which was, oddly enough, a neighborhood of Iraqi expatriates. Strangely, only three Israelis died from the missiles — the rest died of heart attacks or similar ailments as a result of the bombing. Iraq launched some 88 Scud missiles toward Israel and Saudi Arabia over the course of the war.
15. The Air War was one of the most massive, effective air campaigns ever.
The Iraqi Air Force was almost completely annihilated, and was never fully effective. The Coalition massed more than 3,000 airplanes leading up to the January 15th withdrawal deadline. It was the largest airlift effort in history, surpassing even the Berlin Airlift. The U.S. Air Force launched more than 100,000 sorties (air missions) starting on Jan. 17th, 1991 and dropped more than 88,500 tons of bombs.
Iraqis lost 38 MiGs to Coalition air forces, while the rest fled to Iran rather than be shot down. There they were captured and held for years and Iran kept the planes. Coalition laser-guided “smart bombs” still caused hundreds of civilian casualties, even hitting a civilian air raid shelter, then hitting the civilian al-Fallujah neighborhood in Baghdad. When relatives and first responders rushed to the area in the wake of the bombing, they were bombed too.
16. One American pilot was believed missing in action for 18 years after the war.
Coalition forces captured some 70,000 Iraqis throughout the course of the war. At the end of the war Iraq was known to have held a total of 26 allied prisoners: 22 Americans, two Britons, an Italian and a Kuwaiti. Iraq also is believed to have abducted 30-40,000 Kuwaiti civilians. According to Marine Col. Jim Acree, the Iraqis followed the Geneva Convention “for all of 20 minutes.” American POWs were tortured, beaten, and starved. Many of these POWs forcefully appeared in Iraqi Propaganda.
For years afterward, U.S. Navy Lt. Col. Scott Speicher remained missing in action after his FA-18 Hornet was shot down over Iraq, and his flight suit was found near the crash site. Speicher’s remains were found in 2009, and returned home.
“Our Navy will never give up looking for a shipmate, regardless of how long or how difficult that search may be,” said Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, in a statement at the time. “We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Captain Speicher and his family for the sacrifice they have made for our nation and the example of strength they have set for all of us.”
17. President Bush didn’t press on to Baghdad to abide by the UN Mandate.
President Bush only wanted to do what the UN Security Council authorized. Coalition forces expelled the Iraqi Army from Kuwait by February 27th and President Bush halted all offensive operations. This would be controversial until his son George W. Bush’s presidency, when we learned to respect our elders.
“Had we taken all of Iraq,” Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf wrote in his memoirs, “we would have been like a dinosaur in the tar pit — we would still be there, and we, not the United Nations, would be bearing the costs of that occupation.” In 2007, Colin Powell remarked, “In recent months, nobody’s been asking me about why we didn’t go to Baghdad. Pretty good idea now why Baghdad should always be looked at with some reservations.”
18. More Americans died from HIV infection in 1991 than in Operation Desert Storm.
An estimated 100,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed in the conflict, while the United States had only 383 fatalities in the region. 1991 was the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, as infection rates increased 15.3% over the previous year. HIV/AIDS was the ninth highest cause of death in the U.S. that year, killing 29,850 Americans. The number of infected and dead from HIV/AIDS would double by 1993.
19. The First Gulf War brought about the rise of cable news, and thus, cable television.
Media Coverage was very restricted as Coalition commanders feared the horrors of war would lead to another Vietnam syndrome, where the imagery turns the public against war in general. The Pentagon gave regular briefings but few journalists were allowed to visit the front. At the same time, satellite technology allowed for live video of missiles firing off of aircraft carriers and airstrikes on Iraqi targets while night vision camera technology gave the war a futuristic, almost video game like feel. So much so, it came to be dubbed “The Nintendo War.”
Oil covered birds, Coalition war briefings, videos of rockets being shot down chimneys and immediate responses from Kuwaiti and Saudi civilians all made for great television imagery. CNN’s live reporting from a hotel in downtown Baghdad became the main driver of its viewership, as it was the only network broadcasting the war 24 hours a day. Since CNN was only available through cable, subscriptions spiked and pay TV became a permanent facet of American life, the first step in ending the dominance of the “Big Three” networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS.
20. The U.S. encouraged uprisings against Saddam’s regime.
President Bush gave speeches hinting the U.S. would support factions fighting against the Iraqi Ba’athist regime. A Shia rebellion began in Southern Iraq in 1991, but was not supported militarily by the U.S. or Coalition forces — even allowing pro-regime helicopters to brutally suppress the rebellion — despite the Southern No-Fly Zone. In the North, Kurdish fighters staged an uprising of their own, but since no U.S. help was forthcoming, Iraqi generals stayed loyal and massacred the Kurds.
21. Saddam Hussein publicly apologized for the Invasion of Kuwait
Sort of. The Iraqi information minister, Mohammad Said al-Sahhaf (who became known as “Comical Ali” or “Baghdad Bob” during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq), who also announced in 2003 that there were no U.S. troops in Baghdad as U.S. troops were rapidly capturing most of the city, read a statement:
“We apologize for what happened to you in the past,” he read for the Iraqi dictator. “The devoted and the holy warriors in Kuwait met with Iraqi counterparts” under their common creator against the “infidel armies” of “London, Washington and the Zionist entity.”
If we’ve learned anything, it’s to be careful about who you call a “wimp.”
It seems like everything on the Korean Peninsula is going well. Rumor has it that US troops will be pulled out of South Korea if the negotiations are a success. So, get all of your soju-fueled bad decisions out of the way now before you get reassigned stateside.
Before you know it, it’ll be too late to get NJP’d for belligerently screaming, “Merica!” at the DMZ. So, make the most of your OCONUS duty station while you can.
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
It’s been right in front of our eyes this entire time.
Dennis Rodman used to be a spokesman for McDonalds. Rodman visits Kim Jong-un in North Korea. Under a year later, he opens his country. It all makes perfect sense now.
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
(Meme via Salty Soldier)
(Meme via USAWTFM)
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
(Meme via Crusty Pissed Off Veteran)
(Meme via Air Force Nation)
(Meme via Crusty Pissed Off Veteran)
(Meme via Five Bravo)
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
Cover: Anything that won’t be penetrated by small arms fire. Concealment: Anything that can obscure the enemy’s vision of you. This: None of the above.
It’s like this dude never played a video game in his life.
With Far Cry: New Dawn coming soon, it’s tough not to get excited because we all know that the game is going to do the one thing for which the franchise is known: Dropping you into the middle of a f*cked-up situation and forcing you to shoot your way out of it. Of all the games in the series, Far Cry 5 is the best (so far) in doing exactly that, but goes a step even further in motivating us American players to uproot the local tyrant — it’s set in Montana, USA.
But the thing that Far Cry 5 does best is it makes you feel operator AF.
While there are plenty of things that we loved about this game, including the story and characters, the best feature is making you feel like some Special Forces operator on his way to show the antagonist, a religious cult leader named Joseph Seed, and his f’ed up family what that Zero Foxtrot life is all about.
Here are the features of the game that make it so:
You can even dress like one of your boots on the weekends.
You get a choice in wardrobe…
…that includes 5.11 gear. That’s right — every geardo‘s favorite brand is featured in the game. But if there’s anything that makes you feel like an operator, it’s running around in plain clothes with a plate carrier and mag pouches to go give those cultists (known as “Peggies”) a piece of your mind.
Sometimes, it’s better to go it alone.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Pilch)
On your own, you can infiltrate enemy camps and kill every single last one of them without any external support. Some camps can have up to fifteen enemies. You’ll go up against snipers, machine gunners, and flamethrowers. But like a true operator, you can do the whole thing with nothing more than a bow and some throwing knives.
Operators are used to being in small teams to take on large numbers of enemies.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Matthew J. Bragg)
Instead, if you want to bring a team with you to spank the enemy and send a message, you can use the “Guns for Hire” feature and bring up to two others with you.
Nothing like picking up one of these bad boys and going to town.
The ability to use any weapon
In all honesty, it would be easier to provide a list of weapons you can’t use in the game. Like the best of them, you can pick up any weapon on the battlefield and use it to your advantage (and your enemies’ detriment). Anything from a small tree branch to a heavy machine gun is in your wheelhouse.
“It ain’t me, it ain’t me…”
The ability to use any vehicle
You want to fly an airplane and drop warheads on foreheads? You can do that. You want to ride in a Huey to reap souls while blaring Fortunate Son? You can do that, too. In fact, there’s not a vehicle your character cannot use.
All things considered, by the end of the game, you’ll feel like growing out that nice operator beard and eating some egg whites.
History remembers Capt. Jay Zeamer as a tremendous pilot, but he had a rough time getting into the cockpit.
Originally commissioned in the Infantry Reserve, he later transferred to the Army Air Corps to fulfill his dream of flying. There was just one problem: he couldn’t pass the check ride to get into the pilot’s seat.
Despite many attempts, when war came to America in 1941 Zeamer was still stuck co-piloting B-26 Marauders.
Bored with life as a co-pilot, Zeamer asked for a transfer to another unit hoping to start over. Zeamer was eventually transferred to the 403rd Bomb Squadron, 43rd Bomb Group to fly B-17s.
Arriving at the 403rd, Zeamer met up with an old friend, Sgt. Joe Sarnoski, the squadron’s bombardier.
During a combat mission, Zeamer was forced to take over for another pilot, which effectively earned him the right to fly as first pilot. His cool under fire on the mission — and his expert flying skills — also earned him his first Silver Star.
Zeamer’s de facto confirmation made him a pilot, but he had no plane or crew. Through a series of events, Zeamer was able to acquire Sarnoski as both bombardier and navigator. The two began to assemble the rest of the team, testing out compatibility during various missions.
Many of the men, after just one mission with Zeamer, refused to ever fly with him again, but the crazy oddballs and renegades who could hack it ultimately rounded out the crew.
Zeamer and his crew were eventually nicknamed “The Eager Beavers” because they constantly volunteered for missions — especially the most dangerous ones. However, they were still without a plane of their own.
It just so happened that the perfect plane awaited the crew at their next assignment. As new arrivals to the 65th Bomb Squadron, they found a heavily damaged plane being used for parts.
The B-17E had a reputation for taking heavy damage on missions and many believed it to be because of its unfortunate tail number: #41-2666.
Beamer and his crew quickly claimed the plane as their own, and though they never got around to giving it a proper name, often referred to it as “Old 666” after the tail number. The crew repaired and upgraded the plane to their specifications. The .30-caliber machine guns were upgraded to .50-caliber mounts. The waist gunners’ single guns were replaced by twin .50 calibers as well. Zeamer even had a forward-firing gun mounted in the nose so he himself could shoot from the cockpit. All told the B-17 bristled with nineteen guns.
The Eager Beavers soon earned a reputation for their daring deeds. As Zeamer’s friend Walt Krell put it, “Whenever the 43rd got a real lousy mission – the worst possible mission of all that nobody else wanted to fly – they went down to see Zeamer and his gang.”
The Eager Beavers carried out the unwanted missions and earned themselves glory along the way. Every member of the crew received Silver Stars and two more earned Distinguished Flying Crosses. Zeamer himself received a second Silver Star for strafing Japanese searchlights with his forward-firing gun. Sarnoski was rewarded with a battlefield promotion to 2nd lieutenant.
The Eager Beavers and Old 666 took everything that was thrown at them and always returned home.
Then in June 1943, they faced the toughest mission yet – a reconnaissance flight by a lone B-17 over Japanese-infested territory. The mission was to map Bougainville for the upcoming Allied landings. At the last minute word came down that the crew would also need to photograph Buka Island to the north. Zeamer was livid; an already dangerous mission just became practically suicidal.
When Old 666 arrived over Buka, the lone Flying Fortress was spotted by the Japanese who scrambled 17 planes to intercept. The lead flight of Japanese Zeroes caught up to the Eager Beavers near the end of their mapping run.
Unable to stray from its course, Old 666 lumbered along, bracing as the Zeroes attacked. Five planes fanned out in front and flew headlong at the bomber. As the distance closed, the guns on both sides roared to life.
Zeamer scored a hit with his nose-mounted gun while Sarnoski downed one of the incoming Zeroes. Simultaneously, 20mm shells tore through the cockpit and nose, wounding Zeamer and blowing Sarnoski off his gun. Sarnoski dragged himself back to his gun and scored a hit on another fighter before slumping over, mortally wounded.
The battle raged for almost an hour. Zeamer was severely wounded, both legs shot and his rudder pedals blown away. Four other crew members were also wounded. Still, The Eager Beavers continued to rain fire onto the Japanese fighters while Zeamer struggled to maneuver the bomber. The Japanese fighters had brutally damaged the B-17E, forcing it below 10,000 feet with destroyed instrument panels, limited controls, and no oxygen system.
Eventually, the battered Zeroes retreated home, leaving the Eager Beavers to do the same.
Determined to return with the valuable photos, Zeamer refused to relinquish control of the bomber. The rest of the crew treated each others’ wounds and did what they could to keep the stricken bomber in the air.
Just over eight hours after the mission began, Old 666 landed in New Guinea. The fuselage was riddled with holes. Zeamer was nearly left for dead by the medics. He spent many months in hospitals recovering from the mission. Both Zeamer and Sarnoski would be awarded the Medal of Honor, one of only two crews to be so bestowed in World War II.
The mission to Bougainville is the most highly decorated mission ever. With their cumulative awards, the Eager Beavers are the most decorated crew in American history. General George Kenney would write in his memoirs that the mission “still stands in my mind as an epic of courage unequaled in the annals of air warfare.”
In April 2004, a convoy from the US Army’s 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division was on a routine escort mission. The Baghdad neighborhood they were operating in – Sadr City – would become notorious among American and Coalition forces for at least the next four years. What happened to 1st Cav that day came to be known as “Black Sunday,” a battle then- Maj. Gen. Martin Dempsey called “the biggest gunfight since the fall of Baghdad.”
The mission started like any other escort mission. Soldiers in a convoy escorted sewage trucks, known as “honey wagons,” to locations inside the Sadr City area of the Iraqi capital. Though times were tough for the Iraqi people, lawlessness was on the rise throughout Baghdad. Still, everything was for the most part peaceful…until Palm Sunday 2004.
The neighborhood now known as Sadr City housed three and a half million people in five square miles – roughly half of the city’s entire population. Built by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, it was full of mostly Shia muslims who were persecuted under Saddam’s rule. As a result, this densely populated area – smaller in size than most American cities, but with a population higher than Houston or Chicago – was deeply impoverished.
The area came under control of the anti-American Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who took the citizens’ distrust of the occupying Americans and turned in into full-fledged anger. His militant followers formed the formidable Mahdi Army, which attracted fighters from other countries as well as Iraqis. By the time the U.S. was ready to take down al-Sadr, he had grown too powerful. When American shut down his newspaper for inciting violence, Sadr City residents were outraged.
They protested peacefully in the streets at first, but that outrage soon boiled over.
American troops raided al-Sadr’s house and arrested one of his senior aides on the order of Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority. That same day, unbeknownst to the Coalition, al-Sadr’s militia captured Iraqi Police stations across the city.
April 4, 2004 was the day 2-5 Cav was escorting honey wagons as they worked in Sadr City. They had just deployed to Camp War Eagle, on the edge of Sadr City, allegedly the “safest place in Iraq.” They were ambushed by the Mahdi Army as they made their way out of the city. Unable to move all their men out of the area, 19 soldiers holed up in a civilian house, awaiting rescue amid hundreds of enemy fighters.
They had only been in country for a few days.
Relief columns were mounted by 1st Cavalry but those were unable to use the heavy guns on their Bradley M-2A3 Infantry Fighting Vehicles due to the rules of engagement. The rescuers were themselves ambushed by the forces hidden in Iraqi Police stations and, unable to bring firepower to bear, were pushed back.
Eventually, the superior firepower was authorized against the Mahdi Army’s superior numbers. 1st Cav’s use of the Bradleys’ main turret was complimented by a force of 1st Armored Division M-1A2 Abrams tanks.
Eight soldiers were lost in the initial ambush and rescue of those trapped and surrounded in Sadr City that April Day. The fight to rescue the platoon from 2-5 Cav is dramatized in National Geographic Channel’s miniseries The Long Road Home, which begins Nov. 7, 2017.
But the fighting for Sadr City didn’t end in April 2004. The fighting in the Baghdad neighborhood would rage on in the streets between American forces and Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army for another four years. It ended with a ceasefire agreement that allowed Iraqi government troops to enter the area.
Through the use of insults, strict discipline, sleep deprivation, and controlled explosions, Army drill sergeants turn recent high school grads and civilians looking for a new job into trained soldiers ready to serve in America’s wars. This transition is, of course, painful — by design.
Here are 11 things trainees will complain about before learning to suck it up as an Army soldier:
“I’m tired. I didn’t get enough sleep last night.”
New U.S. Army soldiers are expected to operate on little sleep. While in the barracks, recruits’ sleep is regularly interrupted by drill sergeants conducting inspections, punishing infractions, getting head counts, or waking soldiers for the heck of it. The party continues in the field where soldiers sleep in bags instead of beds.
“This food is terrible.”
Military food is rarely praised, and basic training food is even worse. Eating periods are very short and are supervised by drill sergeants who pounce onto soldiers who reach for fattening or sugary foods.
“You mean I have to pay for this terrible haircut?”
Soldiers get their heads buzzed, run in tennis shoes, and shave every day — but what most people don’t know is the trainees foot these bills. The shoes, haircuts, toothpaste, and other gear and services are all paid for by the trainees through Eagle Cash cards, a sort of military prepaid debit card. Most of these costs are defrayed by a uniform allowance that soldiers receive once a year, but the surprise bills still create complaints.
“There’s ugly, then there’s Army Ugly. We are all Army Ugly.”
No matter how handsome you are, it’s hard to rock the haircuts, glasses, and tan lines the Army gives you. Males have to have their heads buzzed. All soldiers requiring corrective lenses are issued basic training glasses, generally referred to as “birth control glasses.” And, after months in the sun in physical training uniforms, combat uniforms, and berets, graduating soldiers have deep tan lines around their wrists and across their foreheads.
“They yell at us all day, and one keeps calling us crack pipes.”
It doesn’t matter who the recruit is, even if they’re famous or the child of a general, they’re getting yelled at in basic training. (Stephen Colbert didn’t even enlist and he caught the sharp edge of the drill sergeants.) Many recruits find themselves shocked at the sheer amount of verbal abuse as well as the language used. The language might be toned down, but the volume never will be.
“Why do we have to take the mask off? Isn’t the point to learn how to use the mask?”
Though they will brag about these experiences later, all recruits have a training event they’re dreading during basic. Maybe it’s the CS gas chamber where they’re forced to remove their gas masks and breath deeply. Some complain about the night infiltration course where they must crawl across the ground while machine guns are fired over their heads and artillery simulators are thrown nearby. Most complain about the “smokings,” physical training sessions spread throughout the day to help new soldiers quickly build strength and endurance.
“Even on overnight guard, I can’t be alone.”
They march as a group, eat as a group, sleep as a group, shower as a group. They go to the bathroom in, at a minimum, two-man teams. Recruits have no privacy for the nine weeks or more of training. Soldiers who go through one station unit training, a combined basic training and job school mostly used for combat soldiers, will endure this for even longer. This can be a source of a lot of complaints, especially if a soldier is paired with another recruit they don’t like.
“Oh, that guy’s a blue falcon. We couldn’t stand him.”
The other recruits, especially the “blue falcons,” soldiers who screw over their peers by tattling or just being a moron, can be a major source of stress for new soldiers. When one basic trainee screws up, that means the whole platoon or whole company is screwed up, and everyone suffers equally. Bad hospital corners on one bed? Grab some real estate, soldier; you’re doing pushups until sweat fogs the windows. Adding to the atmosphere is that, after the punishments, all the trainees are still stuck in the same bay together, still sleeping four feet away from each other, still crapping in battle buddy pairs. And they remember which ones ratted them out.
“We can’t walk on that grass. That grass is only for the drill sergeant.”
Recruits are issued a handbook with pages and pages of arbitrary rules during reception week, before they even make it to basic training — rules like, “All towels must be folded in thirds, not halves, and the open sides must face towards the south side of the building.”
“We had to run everywhere, even when we were early.”
Soldiers are ordered to sprint between training stations, even if they can see the long line from a hundred feet away. Trainees run to the back of the line, then wait until the line moves. The experience and frustration defines “Hurry up and wait” — a military maxim.
“I wore pants with buttons for so long, zipping my jeans felt weird.”
For nine or more weeks, they’ve worn only what they were told to wear, only sat in chairs if given express permission, ate what they were given when they were given it. After graduation, they find take out menus and weigh the merits of thai versus pizza for dinner. They debate whether to watch a DVD or play a football game after the training day ends. They get their cell phones back and wonder whether they should call their mother or their girlfriend first. (They generally call their significant other first. Sorry, mom.)
About two weeks after he found the sunken aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV 2), Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has located another legendary wreck. This time, according to a release, it’s the Atlanta-class anti-aircraft cruiser USS Juneau (CL 52), best known as the vessel that the five Sullivan brothers served on.
USS Juneau had been one of two anti-aircraft cruisers (the other was USS Atlanta (CL 51), the lead ship of the class) sent to join the light cruiser USS Helena (CL 50), the heavy cruisers USS San Francisco (CA 38) and USS Portland (CA 33), and eight destroyers under the command of Rear Admiral Daniel Callaghan. Callaghan’s orders were to stop a Japanese force that included the fast battleships Hiei and Kirishima. In a furious naval battle, Callaghan’s force succeeded — but at great cost.
The Juneau survived the initial battle but was badly damaged when hit by a Japanese Type 93 “Long Lance” torpedo. As she was steaming home, some of her crew had transferred to assist casualties on USS San Francisco — that’s when the Japanese submarine I-26 fired a spread of three torpedoes. One hit, right where Juneau had taken the previous torpedo.
The anti-aircraft cruiser exploded, broke in two, and sank in 20 seconds. Captain Gilbert C. Hoover radioed a plane with the location, but ordered the ships not to stop. In doing so, he left behind over 100 survivors. Only three of those would live. Among the lost sailors were the five Sullivan brothers. Hoover was promptly relieved by Vice Admiral William F. Halsey for leaving the survivors behind.
The USS Juneau rests a little over two and a half miles below the sea’s surface. A new USS Juneau (CL-119), a modified Atlanta, served after World War II. A third USS Juneau (LPD 10) was an Austin-class amphibious transport dock that served until 2008 and is still being held in reserve.
Belgium’s Fort Eben-Emael was the crown jewel of the country’s defense from invasion, boasting huge gun emplacements, defensive ditches and canals, and hundreds of artillery troops, all to protect the heartland and capital.
And the whole thing fell to 87 German paratroopers after barely a day of fighting from May 10-11, 1940.
The fort was built in the early 1930s to prevent the exact situation it faced in 1940: an invasion of the country from the east. It had large guns to sweep fire across three key bridges that would be vital to an invasion. The bridges were also wired for demolition in case the defenders and the fort couldn’t keep the enemy from them.
Defensive canals, barbed wire, and anti-tank ditches made a land assault nearly suicidal, especially since the thick steel and concrete walls could shrug off most munitions launched by artillery or tanks of the day.
A few anti-aircraft guns were present on top of the fort and cupolas — guns with large domes to protect the crews — could fire across the top and kill any attackers who landed there.
But the fort was vulnerable to airborne assault. It had been constructed by digging into an existing large hill, and the miles of tunnels and thick walls made it tough to assault on foot, but did almost nothing to protect it from the sky.
Three assault forces would hit the bridges and attempt to take them from the defenders while a fourth would hit the fort and prevent the guns from firing on the others. The assault force hitting the fort was carrying a new weapon of war to cut through the defenses, shaped charges.
But, the highly trained and well-armed commandos at the fort would be outnumbered nearly 10 to 1.
The Germans landed on the fort in gliders specially modified to stop in the short space, and German paratroopers rushed out to hit the defenders. Belgian gun crews, who knew a probable assault was coming, quickly opened fire — but they didn’t have the canister shot that could quickly decimate the paratroopers.
Instead, the paratroopers were able to rush improperly maintained machine guns as they misfired and other gun crews as they reloaded. One of the defensive guns was taken out when a paratrooper threw a stick of dynamite through a small opening. Two others were destroyed by the special shaped-charge explosives. One crew was killed by a flamethrower.
And there were less defenders than there should have been. The fort relied on conscripts to flesh out its ranks, and many had finished their period or been pulled away to positions in the Belgian Army. Other troops were sick or on leave.
Within the first 10 minutes, the paratroopers had taken out nine defensive positions and forced many of the defenders to go underground behind barriers. Within 15 minutes, the Germans had neutralized the major defenses that threatened the fort attackers, as well as many of the guns that could hit the bridges.
The Belgians didn’t accept this laying down, of course. Soon after the attack began, the fort commander ordered nearby artillery to fire on the fort, killing some of the German attackers.
But the Germans sheltered in the wrecked cupolas and other positions and rode out the worst of the artillery.
As the Luftwaffe sent planes to silence the Belgian guns, the paratroopers used their shaped charges and other weapons to seal off exits from the fort and to wreck the few remaining positions that could fire outside.
And the bridge crews had successfully captured two bridges intact and one more that was damaged but repairable. Only 28 hours after the start of the attack, the road into Belgium was open.
The paratroopers had suffered six dead and 15 wounded by the time that the Belgian troops began surrendering.
The attackers all received high awards for valor and Hitler captured the country soon after.